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So. I'm driving down the main highway (401) near Toronto with my kids. We're in my new Fiat 500 Abarth (2500km - less than 2 months old). I'm cruising at 100kmph (yes. It's hard to believe but I was not speeding). The steering wheel starts to vibrate like when the alignment is out so I get into the right lane. Suddenly the car tilts and blue smoke starts pouring from the driver-side front wheel well. I'm shocked but manage to pull over safely thinking that I have a flat tire. When I get out to look, the wheel is literally off the car wedged in. I'm more shocked. All this makes for a very long night with my car being towed to a very inconvenient dealership.

Now the dealership (and Fiat Canada) are saying that this will have to be covered by my insurance because they think someone might have tampered with the wheel (the damage is more than $3500 before any bodywork fixes). Of course this is possible. But it's also possible that it was something caused by a manufacturing defect.

Has anyone experienced anything like this? Should I be getting a second opinion - will Fiat even care if they've already made up their mind? I'm not thrilled having the company investigate the cause. I have of course contacted the MTO, etc.
 

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I know when the dealer I go to does the tire rotation they tell you to return after 200 km so they can check the torque setting on the bolts. I thought it seemed overly cautious, maybe I should rethink that.

Gerhard
 

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first off, im glad to hear the family is ok. second, this does sound like an insurance type of issue. it is hard to prove that something is a manufacturer defect if it isnt happening to other vehicles. that doesnt mean there wasnt some fault on their end, it is just hard to prove. Third, again im happy to read that you are ok. my dad and i lost a wheel heading home from a car show back in '03. it went under the car and shot us about 4 feet in the air into oncoming traffic. if any good news can be taken from this, be happy that no one was injured and the car is just a car and much easier to fix than a limb.

best of luck with the fix and hope it goes smoothly for everyone.
 

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Someone didn't torque the wheels on it. Wonder if someone was trying to steal your wheels. I'd check the wheel others too. Your cars is not that old, of a vehicle.

We had a older Accord. That happen to me a couple times, when NTB rotated the tires on it. The wheels didn't fall off. I tighten the lugs nut before it happen, the first time. Bad vibration, and a weird noise. All 4 wheels!!!!!!! I gave them a nasty call. My daughter the 2nd time, was on the way back to college when it happen. Made NTB tow the car back to there shop. Happen a week, both times after a tire rotation.

When ever we get new tires, at Cosco. 2 different people walk around and torque the wheels twice.
 

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Thanks for everyone who replied. I thought that I would reply with a quick update on what's happened in the last week. It hasn't been good.

1. I've decided to go through insurance. I'm going to keep the parts to have them inspected at a later date. Insurance has been great. I'm not thrilled with doing this but it seems like the only thing that I can do without devoting my life to investigating this.

2. I've decided to move my car to Wellington Motors in Guelph to have the work performed. That's where I purchased my car and they will cover some of my deductible. They've been great to deal with.

3. When the accident happened my car could not be towed to Guelph as the dealership was closed. So it was towed to Hunt in Milton. They've been horrible to deal with (as has Fiat Canada). First they would not release my car. They just finished trying to tell me that my insurance company had authorized the repair work and that they've ordered parts, etc. That's simply not true. The appraisal clearly states that I have to approve the work. By now I had already told my insurance company and Fiat Canada that I was going to have the car moved. When I made that clear to them I was told, in a hostile tone, that I would have to pay for the inspection and storage. That's fine. As far as I'm concerned I'll pay anything to have the car moved from Hunt.

Chrysler/Fiat Canada has been terrible to deal with. They don't apparently care about how they or their dealers handle customers.

As a footnote, Hunt also claims that there was only one bolt present with the ca (which helps their theory of what caused the accident). I contend that there were two plus a part, possibly from another. I wouldn't feel inclined to include this if they didn't also make the claim about authorization for the repairs.
 

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Unless you have a very evil enemy, it's likely that you park on the street and thieves were interrupted during their removal process. If the wheel studs are not stripped, that is most likely the case. A 360 walk around before you go on a trip with the family would be a good idea going forward.
 

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You can buy a tool a Sears that will take a wheel lock lug off in seconds for $15.... In my experience, wheel locks are more of a pain that they are worth. They will stop stupid thieves, but that's about it. But sometime you'll be at the tire or repair shop with no lug key, and there goes your day!

Every now and then a wheel comes off. More often than not, it's due to incorrect torque when mounted. This happens from time to time even to my track rat friends, who live by safety mantras and procedures.

But this is even more of a problem now that pretty much everyone has cast Al wheels. Steelies can take tons of torque, so over-tightening isn't a problem and most just hit the lugs with an air gun. But Al wheels are less forgiving, and they have different thermal expansion properties than steel, so if they aren't tightened properly they tend to work themselves loose more quickly. The best advice I have is to get your own torque wrench, and check from time to time. Recognizing that sudden vibration is wheel related and should be responded to by slowing and pulling over was very prudent and something everyone should keep in mind. When this does happen there is a bit of time between loose wobbling and the wheel coming off. This is the time to slow down before all **** breaks loose!

I too am glad that no one was hurt. This has happened to me, but in a 75 Spider! I was on the freeway and there was a thunk, the rear driver quarter dropped about 6 inches, and my wheel passed me down the freeway! I just looked at my passenger and said "Look! There goes our wheel!" and pulled over to stop. He wasn't quite so calm..... Some nice driver chased my wheel down (an original 13" Rosavelt Al Fiat wheel from an early 60s 124 coupe) and drove it back to me. I took one lug from each of the remaining wheels, and limped it home with three on each hub! Only took one rotor to fix, as that one didn't fare so well driving down 280 in Cupertino!
 

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Sorry to hear about all this... I lived in Mississauga and currently in Brantford. I have had dealing with a lot of Fiat Dealers in the GTA. Bought my car at Peel and currently deal with Johnston in Hamilton as it is a about 75km closer then Peel for serving. Hunt is one that I avoided all together even before I got my Abarth.. Not to crap on them but when I was inquiring about the Abarth they had no read details or information on it at all when I was asking some of their salesmen. I didnt really need the information but I was just feeling out the place. Then when I was calling around the GTA to find out how much they charged for an Abarth oil change, they said it was only $49.. I said is that the price for a full synthetic Abarth oil change? Their response " The Abarth takes full synthetic oil?" That was the end of that conversation.

Mistert when all this is all done and you get your car back in one piece, send me a pm and we can get you involved in our GTA meets . We have a good showing of Fiat in our Area and try to meet up every few months.. This weekend doing a cruise to a winery in Niagara on the Lake.

Cheers,
Nick
 
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